An Untaught Moment
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Two days after President Obama's denunciation of racial profiling at his press conference, a blonde 17-year-old private schoolgirl, whose mother is a law school professor and whose father was a longtime jazz critic for the local alternative weekly, was somehow abducted off busy Wilshire Blvd. in the middle of the afternoon by a ten-time loser black crackhead, and, after a tour of ATMs, murdered in her car.

Here's a minor local columnist's braindump that reveals a lot about why white liberals are such fine haters (see "Projection"). I'll quote it at length because the transition is so starkly hilarious that if I shortened it, you'd assume I had distorted it.

Children are murdered in Southern California on a tragically regular basis.

They are beaten by mothers or mothers' boyfriends or so-called "foster" parents. They are slaughtered in selfish family massacres by suicidal fathers. They are felled by stray bullets in drive-by shootings.

So why does the senseless death of Lily Burk affect me so deeply? Why do I pore over news articles about her? Why do I agonizingly imagine her final, terrifying moments?

Why, in fact, does the media seemingly focus more on Lily than on most child murders?

I can only speak for myself, but I suspect similar reasons.

Lily was 17 and headed for her senior year of high school. My daughter, almost 17, is headed for her senior year of high school.

In a widely circulated photo, Lily is wearing a fashionable scarf around her neck. My daughter, too, "got into" scarves last winter.

Lily had a mass of dark blond hair, like my daughter.

Lily's father is a journalist. I, and many of my friends, are journalists. Lily's mom is an attorney. My mom, my brothers and some of my friends are attorneys.

Lily grew up in a middle-class family that, apparently, values education and the arts. Like us.

Lily was a creative sort - as are both my children, in their own ways.

Lily was a new driver running an errand for her mother. My daughter just passed her driving test a few days ago.

Lily was abducted by a transient in downtown Los Angeles. I worked for years in downtown Los Angeles and can easily visualize the turf.

Lily was white. Like my daughter. Like my son. Like almost all of my family. Like the bulk of my friends. Like me.

I never knew Lily, but she feels very familiar.

While I choke up over pictures of the sweet little boy ruthlessly bludgeoned by his stepfather, I cannot as instantly relate to the circumstances.

There is a lot of ranting going on by publicity-hungry white male windbags about "reverse racism." It is unbecoming, to say the least. And it is even more repugnant when white male political leaders - who, after all, represent our diverse country - offer scant rebuttal.

To label Sonia Sotomayor racist over a tiny soundbite in which she relates to and celebrates her own ethnic group - during a pep talk to that ethnic group - is egocentric at best.

To dismiss the painful history of racial profiling as a lesser issue than President Obama's unmeasured use of the word "stupidly" - regarding the arrest of a black scholar at his own house - is insensitive at best.

And for intelligent adults to keep perpetrating a thoroughly debunked rumor that our first African American president qualifies as strictly African but not American is immature at best.

In every one of those scenarios, the term "at best" is charitable at best.

We like to pretend to be a colorblind society. We like to pretend that race doesn't matter - thereby, some argue, saying that it does is in and of itself racist.

But racial profiling does not just occur among police officers, or it would be a pesky problem instead of a persistent, gaping wound. Police departments are merely a microcosm of society at large.

Indeed, we owe a huge debt to those who risk their lives to protect us - doing so with the same kinds of biases every human harbors in some form or another.

Racial - and/or cultural and/or socioeconomic and/or religious and/or educational and/or regional and/or political and/or etcetera - profiling is embedded in our hearts.

Let's be honest: Whatever our skin color, we do tend to notice skin color. Whatever our background, we do tend to connect most automatically with people of the same background.

Thus, in a country dominated by white people, nonwhite people are vulnerable to being marginalized and discriminated against.

For a white man, who has reaped the innumerable benefits of his majority status, to cry racism when a minority ever so mildly expresses sentiments born from firsthand experience is disingenuous at best.

(While we're on the topic, I'd be curious to know how many of these spewing volcanoes partied at college in all-white fraternities. And so on.)

I can't think of Lily Burk without thinking about my daughter and the enormous, risky world into which she is soon to embark. Lily could have been my child.
[ Why does Lily Burk's senseless death affect me so deeply? By Susan Christian Goulding,, August 2, 2009 ]
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